My God, Tom Donohue looks exhausted. I know being a catcher, especially one who plays their home games in hot Orange County, can be draining. But think about the editor at Topps in 1981 who looked at the contact sheet for Tom Donohue.
THIS was the picture they chose! Was he throwing up in the other ones? Taking a nap?
The Mineola native was picked by the Angels out of Nassau Community College in 1972. Long Island is not exactly a hotbed for big league talent (Carl Yastrzemski was the biggest star to come out of Long Island.)
To date he is the only major league player to make it out of Nassau Community College.
A look at his minor league days shows that a trip to the majors was not guaranteed in any way shape or form,
At age 19, he was struggling at the plate in Single A Quad Cities. In 1972, 1973 and 1974, he just couldn’t hit. Especially when using the metrics favored in the 1970’s, his average was consistently below .200, his power numbers were non existent as were his RBI.
Yet in 1975, at age 22, he hit well in a few weeks of games in the California League and earned a promotion to AA where he held his own in El Paso.
Finally in 1976, he broke out, batting .326 in a few months at AA and was promoted to AAA Salt Lake City. Sports Illustrated even mentioned Donohue in an article about Angels top prospects in 1976. In 1977, he clubbed 15 homers and posting a respectable .821 OPS in Utah.
On April 6th, 1979, Donohue entered the game as a defensive replacement for Brian Downing in a blowout game between the Angels and the Mariners. It was his big league debut. It happened on the second game of the season. He was sent to the minors and came back up on May 24th. He started the game against Milwaukee and got on base twice.
His biggest game happened on August 20th. In a game against the Indians, the Angels were in first and fighting off Minnesota and the three time defending Division Champion Royals.
Donohue got the start catching with Jim Barr pitching. Cliff Johnson of Cleveland hit a 3 run homer in the first which was all the scoring in the game until the second. Jim Anderson singled and Donahue stayed in the game and got a single as well. Donohue came around to score on Disco Dan Ford’s game tying double. The Angels would take the lead, 5-3 into the 8th.
But Mark Clear walked two batters with the bases loaded in the 8th to tie the game. In the bottom of the 8th, Donohue’s time to bat came up again.
Instead of pinch hitting with Downing, manager Jim Fregosi let Donohue hit. With friend of the podcast Sid Monge pitching, Donohue launched a go ahead homer to give the Angels a 6-5 lead. California reliever Dave LaRoche would hold onto the lead in the ninth and Donohue was credited with the Game Winning RBI. The Angels would hold on to win the Division despite late season runs by Texas and Kansas City.
In 1980, Donohue appeared in 84 games, starting 72 at catcher. But in 230 plate appearances only managed 41 hits and 7 walks. It would be his last in professional ball.
From the look of this picture, he was clearly exhausted.
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